Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why Orwell matters

George Orwell can never go out of style because he's timeless like a faded photograph. His views remain some fifty years ahead of the status quo, relevant to every heretic in this age of apocalypse.
That said, I've always found Orwell's fiction a bit dull if reliably flush with ideas. I much prefer his non-fiction. His essays and travel writing are full of brilliant moments. Take for instance this passage from Politics and the English Language:

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.

Read more here.

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